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Maid-Sama Collection 1 DVD Review

9 min read

Working to make ends meet, Misaki finds herself in a bad position when another student finds out.

What They Say:
Getting sent to Seika High School is scary enough if you’re a guy, but now that the notorious former boys’ school has gone coed, the unfortunate girls who’ve been enrolled there have only one goal: getting through each day as it comes. But into this untamed and testosterone-filled wilderness comes a girl on a mission, a girl who’s not afraid of any male and is willing to take them on in that most deadly of all arenas: the Student Council!

As Seika’s first-ever female president, Misaki Ayuzawa talks the talk and walks the walk, but after school hours she morphs into something rather different… a waitress at a maid cafe! So when cool, aloof and handsome Usui Takumi discovers Misaki’s secret, things are going to get VERY interesting, very quickly!
Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is about what was expected with the original Japanese language track as the only track here encoded in stereo at 224kbps. Maid-Sama is a pretty straightforward romantic comedy type show where the mix is all about the dialogue and some of the wacky antics and over the top mayhem that happens so it pretty much dominates the forward soundstage with some minor moments of directionality. Mostly it’s meant to just be a big piece when it goes in that direction while the rest of the time it keeps to the usual play of dialogue between characters. There’s some placement to be had at times but there aren’t any surprises here nor are there any problems as we didn’t have any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing starting in the spring of 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episodes for this set are spread across two discs in a six/seven format as is fairly standard for Sentai Filmworks releases. The show has a pretty good color palette to it where it uses normal school style colors and some bright but not garish or overpowering in nature. The series is animated by J.C. Staff so it has a good look about it with solid designs, clean animation and plenty of fluid animation when required. It’s not a budget production but it works things smartly so it has the right amount of detail without looking cheap or overdesigned. The transfer captures this well with smooth animation, minimal noise in the background and no cross coloration or problematic aliasing.

Packaging:
The two disc set comes in a standard single sized keepcase that holds both discs with a hinge inside and it goes with a lo tof pink to the front cover that’s a little surprising. The layout is pretty nice and eye-catching with it as it features the elegant looking along the sides with the pink while the middle has a lot of white background and a bit more pink that’s obscured by the character designs. The focus on Misaki in the foreground isn’t a surprise at all with her in her maid outfit and a big smile on her face, albeit it with a bit of a blush to her cheeks. Usui looks all cool and collected in the background in his school outfit with the white shirt and red tie and there’s a certain confidence to him that works well. Thew back cover is yet another angled piece with the basic layout from the front cover is replicated but the center has the summary, split into two columns no less, angled with a full length shot of Misaki breaking it up. There are some decent small shots through the middle strip while the bottom has the production information in black against pink and a clean technical grid done in black and white. It’s all very cleanly laid out and looks very good while being easy to read. No reversible cover is included nor are there any show related inserts included.

Menu:
The menu design for this series is pretty simple as it uses the same design elements from the packaging with the pink backgrounds with the white and frilly aspect to it all. The static screen lest the left side showcase various pieces of character artwork and each volume has a different main menu piece with some nice detail and colors to it that gives it some pop while still having a soft appeal that fits with its shoujo nature. The right side has the episode selection section with the numbers and titles and the cursor is cutely done as a blue heart. The first disc has a couple of extra things to it with the extras itself which has the trailers and credits as well. Being a monolingual release, player presets are essentially a non-issue.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the shoujo manga by Hiro Fujiawara that’s literally translated as The President is a Maid!, Maid-Sama! is a twenty-six episode series by J.C. Staff that dals with some familiar themes but with a few changes to it that gives it some potential. The idea of a student body president that moonlights as a waitress at a maid cafe isn’t exactly fresh, nor that she basically has two personalities to it, but I liked that idea that it has in that the school was a boys only school up until the last couple of years and there’s still very few women. Because of that, Misaki has risen quickly and she’s putting all her efforts into recruiting more women to the school through things like the culture festivals and so forth. The disparity in the genders gives it something different to work with while not making it an entirely new situation like a school who just changed its policy.

Misaki is like a lot of strong female leads in that she has a personality that comes across as harsh at times, but she has softer moments as well. There are a lot of factors that go into why she is the way she is at school, especially when it comes to trying to attract more women to the school as she does her best to get the guys to walk the straight and narrow so as to learn some manners. Years and years of the school being one way and only a couple with it integrated has a lot of things to work through. And with her personality in that she takes on everything herself to get it done since others fall through, both boys and girls, and that has her working long hours and only getting more frustrated. To make matters even worse, she comes from a poor family in a home that’s quite literally falling apart so she ends up working a job in order to help make ends meet. But the only job she could really get was that of a waitress in a maid cosplay cafe the next town over. She’s managed to avoid having anyone from school see her, but that all changes when Usui ends up finding her there.

Usui being the kind of guy he is where he’s fairly cool and collected with an amusing confidence to him, he uses the situation to his advantage and just keeps the knowledge as a bargaining point for things. Not that he calls in on it a lot, such as having her wait on him hand and foot, but rather it’s just more fun on his part to play with her in this way. Usui has his own secrets, but they are only touched on in the lightest of ways here at the very end of this set. Usui has an interest in Misaki, but it’s more of a fun little project and plaything of sorts, though there’s an undercurrent that there’s something else to it. He ends up protecting her in a lot of ways with her secret and from those that try to give her grief, but he gives it to her in their place since he treats her as though she’s his very own and nobody else’s.

While the characters are a bit off from the usual that we get in these situations, and it is what carries it for much of it in this set, the stories themselves are pretty much standard fare. Sometimes they do tweak things just right though to give it its own edge. I would normally write a show off that runs a culture festival in its second episode, but it’s used here to show off the school to prospective female students and they work in a lot of things related to it so it feels like it has an actual purpose. Another story involves Misaki working late for a few nights at the cafe and there being problems in the area with people accosting wait staff, but it has a cute little hook to it, which is admittedly disturbing in real life, but it does some nice role reversal for Misaki as she deals with it. Add in a small but growing cast of characters that never dominate the core pairing and you have some fairly standard stories but what helps to set it apart is that it does keep primarily to these two with an array of friends around Misaki. It doesn’t beat you over the head with it by having other characters dominating and needing their own episodes. They have stories, but they’re the accents to it all.

J.C. Staff has long been doing good looking shows and Maid-sama! is no exception as we get really nice looking character designs and some really attractive backgrounds that have a lot of detail. The show doesn’t have a soft look to it, but it uses soft colors for the backgrounds that gives it a warm feeling. The character animation is really quite nice, though more often than not they’re in their school uniforms which is kind of frustrating. We do get some casual outfits here and there but mostly it’s Misaki in either her school uniform or her maid outfit while Usui in casual pants with the white shirt and tie. I wanted a little more variety out of it for when they’re not in school, but most of that time is spent at the cafe where the supporting cast gets to accentuate their maid outfits in other ways.

In Summary:
Maid-sama! is that kind of easily accessible and largely harmless title that’s fun to watch without a lot of real commitment to be made to it. Some shows of this nature go with characters that stand out in a bad way, but both of these lead characters have their positives and negatives, but neither is so overwhelming that it can ruin them overall. It has wacky moments and good fun with it works with physical comedy and outtakes and the like, but it knows when to play things serious as well. You come away liking the characters and the things they’re involved with are fun and light with an edge of something more serious running underneath it. It’s a series you can just drop in and enjoy and not feel like it’s trying to be more than it is by going to extremes. I smiled and laughed a fair bit during Maid-sama and it has things that can definitely help it to stand out against louder and more grating series.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 7th, 2011
MSRP: $49.99
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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